Are You Seeing More Instagram Ads? It Was Planned

instagram ads

Facebook always has a plan. Whether we like it or not, Facebook always seems to be in control of our behaviors. When acquiring Instagram, the social media giant already had plans in place to begin brand advertising on the photo sharing app. Being a veteran player in the digital advertising game, Facebook knew exactly how to do so while minimizing the loss of users.

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Are Your Pictures Really Your Pictures?

If an image is uploaded to the internet, it doesn’t become public property. That’s common knowledge, especially in the business world. These lines seem to have gotten a bit fuzzy on social media though, especially on Instagram.

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Instagram Advertisers Beating Out Instagram Users

So Instagram now allows all brands to advertise on their site as long as they allow the rules. Sounds fair enough. Well, it’s fair to all companies…but what about the users? Why should the users suffer from the addition of more and more ads? Are the users going to give up on the social media platform? The 400 million monthly users say maybe.

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Optimize and Utilize Houzz for Brands

There’s a new social media platform in town and it’s called Houzz. With 15 million users a month, the Pinterest-type network attracts people searching for home improvement ideas and those in the industry. If your brand falls into the home improvement, contracting or interior design industry, this tool is for you.

Why Houzz?

So why should you be using Houzz? How about this statistic. In the next two years, 84% of homeowners plan to decorate or redecorate their home and 48% plan to remodel, build-on or build a custom home. And If you have done and remodeling on your own, you know what people don’t take process too lightly. Homeowners spendlots of time online researching companies to help their dreams a reality. Whether it be searching for reviews of a company or perusing previous projects completed by a company, Houzz offers this service and more all in one place.

Getting Started

Setting up a Houzz account is simple for both homeowners and business owners. The first step is to create an official profile here on the Houzz website. You also download the extremely user-friendly app, which I find a lot easier to use than the desktop version. The more detail you put into your profile, the easier people will be able to find you. Here are some other helpful hints to getting your Houzz profile started:

  • Use high resolution photos
  • Add all contact information
  • List services you provide
  • Be strategic when creating keywords
  • Share your Houzz profile on all other social networks

Keys to Successfully Marketing on Houzz

Just like other social media platforms, you want your Houzz profile to reflect the “best version” of your business. Here are a few ways you can create a successful marketing campaign using Houzz for your brand.

  1. Engage and Connect

Although Houzz is a sales-driven platform, there is also that opportunity to connect with users and engage in different activities throughout the network. Create Ideabooks and fill them with your own photos or even photos that aren’t necessarily yours, but they inspire you. Just lie Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, if you aren’t active outside of your own profile, you will fall to the wayside.

Optimize and Utilize Houzz for Brands

  1. Be Prompt

Because this is a sales-driven platform, users are constantly asking questions to gain more information about companies via Houzz. It’s very important to respond promptly and professional to questions you receive through your inbox or comments on photos. Houzz does a great job of making sure you receive notifications when someone makes a comment. You can also change your notification settings to best suit your business. And remember on social media, users expect an answer within 24 hours of sending their question.

  1. Be Visual

The industry of interior design and contracting is very visual. Make sure your Houzz profile reflects that. The more photos you can upload the better. If a user wants to hire you, that obviously will want more than three photos of your work. Be creative with the photos you upload by creating Before & After shots. But keep in mind, when creating Before & After include both images in the same photo. This way users won’t get confused. Houzz does allow you to put a Before & After watermark on photos. Last, but not least make sure your photos are professional. If photography isn’t a strong skill for you, it wouldn’t hurt to hire a professional to take pictures for you. Cellphone photos are a definite NO-NO on Houzz.

Optimize and Utilize Houzz for Brands

Now that you have all the tools you are ready to tackle Houzz! Remember to have fun with it and show off your creative skills. While still new to the game, Houzz is taking great strides and will be a top contender among other social media platforms in the near future.

Are you already on Houzz? What tips do you have for optimizing and utilizing Houzz for brands?

4 Tips for Creating a Successful Instagram Marketing Strategy

Using Instagram is more than just posting photos via the mobile app and adding cool filters. If you wish to build your brand’s digital presence using the social media platform, you better be thinking strategically. Follow these tips to ensure you have a successful Instagram marketing strategy.

1. Find A Clear Goal

What are you looking for by starting an Instagram account? Are you wanting to increase brand awareness? Increase your sales? Or are you looking to explore connecting with a new demographic that you haven’t already reached with other digital media platforms? By first addressing what you wish to accomplish, you can better hone in on exactly what to post and your voice will be better heard.

2. Be Consistent

Many brands fall into the trap of not regularly posting. As an Instagram user this is definitely a red-flag to unfollow. Most users are looking to follow accounts who post at least two times a day with relevant and engaging content. Don’t fall victim to the inconsistent posting patterns that a lot of brands do.

3. Balance

Balance is key to creating an Instagram campaign that is engaging and also informational. People who use Instagram are interested in viewing photos that are aesthetically pleasing and shareable. All too often I see brands solely promoting their products rather than trying to tell a story.

Instagram marketing using hashtags.

Lilly Pulitzer used the branded hashtag #lillyfortarget to promote their collaboration line.

Instagram is meant to be a more informal social platform where it’s okay to be personable,human, and even funny. Your profile should include a well-represented mix of fun and business related content. Try these examples:

  • Create how-to videos of certain products you sell
  • Spotlight employees
  • Repost fans photos using a Repost app
  • Find creative ways to display your products on Instagram
  • Participate in iconic hashtag says throughout the week: #ManCrushMonday, #WomenCrushWednesday, #ThrowbackThrusday and #SelfieSunday

4. Branded Hashtag

A branded hashtag is perfect for giving your brand a presence on Instagram. Although it might take some time before your hashtag takes off, don’t ;et this stop you from creating one. Once your account gains more popularity, a branded hashtag will help you connect and engage with followers.

In the end, Instagram isn’t a tool to drive traffic to your website. It’s really hard to do. In fact, Instgram only allows one hyperlinked address and that’s on the profile page of an account. Rather, brands should use it to build an audience using interesting, fun, and entertaining images than are worth sharing.

Need help kick-starting your Instagram marketing and brand strategy? Let us offer our expertise. Click below to contact us today to get the conversation started.

Need help with an Instagram marketing strategy? Contact StrataBlue today!

Canva: A Social Media Expert’s Best Kept Secret

The key to becoming a successful social marketer is to constantly be thinking of innovative ideas and always work creatively. Enter Canva: a graphic design tool for everyone. Canva is an Australian based start-up that sky-rocketed back in August 2013, when they raised over $3 million from distinguished technology-based investors. It has a major emphasis on creating graphics that are friendly for all social media platforms including, but not limited to: Facebook and Facebook Advertising, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ and YouTube.

Recently, I’ve discovered how to use Canva as an essential social media tool for anyone wanting to enhance their digital presence.

Canva’s Top Features

Customized Dimensions: Canva offers several types of social dimensions including ads, cards and blog post headers.

Pre-made Content: Templates make creating designs easy but you can also have a creative guide.

FREE Stock Images: Choose from several FREE stock images from a variety of categories. There are also images available for purchase.

Fonts Galore: Several fonts make creating unique designs.

Drag & Drop Tool: Users can easily place their graphics using an easy-to-use drag and drop tool.

Simple User Interface: Canva makes creating your designs easy by not including all the extraneous editing tools other photoshop tools have. This saves time because users can’t constantly second guess themselves with several filters and other art tools.

Creative Stream: Designers block? Click the Stream tab to view in real time other Canva user’s designs.

Accessibility: Canva is available for desktop and iPhone/iPad mobile apps.

Getting Started with Canva

Like I mentioned, Canva is extremely user friendly. Follow these steps to begin your first design.

  • Choose Dimension
  • Choose a Template
  • Create Content or Insert Photos
  • Let your creativity run wild!
  • Download as a PDF or Image File

How Can You Use Canva?

Canva is perfect for creating images for a client or even for personal social platforms. Even with a full-time graphic design team on your side, sometimes it’s nice to take a shot at creating your own designs. Below are some of my personal ideas for using Canva in my career as a digital media account manager:

Holiday Graphics for Social Media

Holiday Graphics for Social Media

Blog Post Headers

 

Facebook Ads

Facebook Ads

Pinterest

Pinterest Graphics

Expand Your Skills

In all honesty, one of my major future goals is to develop design skills so I can be a triple threat in the industry. Canva allows me to do that. I get to use my way with words and turn them into a visual piece of art. As every social media expert knows, imagery is essential for creating top-notch campaigns: especially professional looking imagery. Using this tool can help you stand out in a crowd and even impress your clients.

What are you waiting for? Sign up for Canva NOW… It’s free!

Or, if you’re interested in other social media tools I keep in my back pocket, check out this blog on Instagram Marketing Tools or this one on Optimal Social Media Posting Times.

4 Ways To Utilize March Madness In Your Social Media Campaigns

The madness of this year’s NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball has been great so far! Have you found a way to utilize one of the biggest events in our nation into your digital media campaign? If not- you’re in luck! I’ve compiled a list of 4 ways you can utilize March Madness to help boost engagement with your brand on social media.

Why March Madness?

Contrary to what you might think, online searches for March Madness start as early as January and last all throughout April. This is because before the tournament starts, fans are constantly checking online to see which teams will make it into the Big Dance and those searches will increase with Selection Sunday. Obviously throughout the tournament people will be searching for scores, live action and where they can find the game. Once the final game is over, the interest dwindles down as people switch to searching about freshman recruiting and the NBA draft. Fans will also be flocking to their social media feeds and search engines every time a big upset or game changer happens; all the way from the time of tip-off to the final buzzer. With this large of a captive audience it’s almost a no brainer to integrate some type of March Madness content into your digital media campaigns. The NCAA Tournament will be dominating social media feeds, televisions and everyday conversations.

What Can You Do?

Not sure how to include March Madness in your brand’s editorial calendar? Here are a few ideas:

1. Contest

Contests are the #1 way to increase engagement and collect information from your audience. Lucky enough to score a pair of tickets to the big game? Create a ticket giveaway where you ask people to follow your brand and give their email addresses. Don’t have tickets to give away? One of the most common contests during March Madness are bracket challenges. Ask customers to fill out their best tournament predictions and pick a winner who has the most correct bracket!

Crown Liquors is giving away 2 tickets to the final game through a Facebook contest.

Crown Liquors is giving away 2 tickets to the final game through a Facebook contest.


2. Hometown Hero

Give the local teams who made it to the Big Dance a shoutout on all your digital media platforms. Be sure to tag the team and student section in all posts to increase engagement. Follow the team throughout the tournament and post live updates on your social media platforms. This will give you major brownie points in community management.

Hopcat restaurant and bar in Broad Ripple shows love to the Butler basketball team.

Hopcat restaurant and bar in Broad Ripple shows love to the Butler basketball team.


3. #MarchMadness

One of the simplest ways to engage with those talking about the NCAA Tournament is to use the appropriate hashtag on all social media platforms including but not limited to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Here are a few of the most popular ones:

#MarchMadness
#NCAA
#bracketology
#BigDance
#FinalFour
#Sweet16

Current trending topics and hashtags.

Current trending topics and hashtags.


These are just some of the most popular hashtags, but if you are looking to be a little more creative, check these out or even try to come up with your own hashtag that relates to your brand.

4. Special Offers & Deals

During the tournament get more people in the door with special offers and deals that you announce on social media. How about free appetizers when your team wins? People love to go out and watch the game with friends, so if your brand is one of those places people can watch the game at be sure you are attracting them on social media. You can also offer social media specific deals throughout the tournament to increase sales and engagement.

Scotty's Brewhouse sent out an email offering $5 growler fills when a #1-#4 loses.

Scotty’s Brewhouse sent out an email offering $5 growler fills when a #1-#4 loses.


Incorporating March Madness can help increase engagement for almost any brand or business. The best part is figuring out all the creative ways you can make the event coincide with your brand. I’m lucky enough to live where the Final 4 takes place, so I am certainly excited to see how brands engage on social media during the Big Dance!

Need help advertising your brand during March Madness? Contact us today!

5 Best Practices For Using Hashtags in Your Social Strategy

On social media today, a hashtag can be used on several platforms including, but not limited to: Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. The purpose of a hashtag is to connect people to conversations that are happening on the Internet. The original hashtag was created to mark keywords or topics within a tweet. Putting the “#” symbol in front of a word or phrase turns it into a link that makes it easier for people to find. Hashtags are easy to create and easy to find, but what are the best practices for using hashtags? Below, I have complied a list of the top 5 best hashtag practices for social media use.

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Case Study: Restaurant Grand Opening

Creating Buzz in the Community and Building an Email List for Restaurant Opening

At StrataBlue, we work with lots of restaurants. And when it comes to the recipe for a new restaurant’s opening, creating buzz via social media and using email to acquire and communicate with customers are key ingredients it the success.

Problem

The proprietors of a new restaurant came to us just four months prior to their targeted open date. They didn’t have a logo, let alone a website. They were still planning the menu. And even though they’d signed up for social media profiles, they had no branding or content up.

  • Our Challenge: How do you create word of mouth and buzz when the restaurant is still months away from opening?

Our StrataBlue team made it our mission to aim for massive, targeted reach and to build and educate an audience that included local foodies and social media influencers, who could help us serve up the maximum amount of online reach and digital buzz.

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Solution

Cooking up the Foundation:

While the eventual goal was to grow a social media following, generate and amplify buzz, and build a foundational email list, we had a lot of work ahead of us before we could begin posting content and amplifying it throughout the social sphere. Our graphic design and social teams worked hand in hand with the restaurant proprietors to create the overall voice they wanted to convey through their branding and digital presence.

Our graphics team started from scratch to design the following:

  • logo
  • website
  • branding materials
  • menu design
  • social media profile branding (Facebook & Twitter)
  • social media display ads (Facebook & Twitter)
  • email marketing templates

 

 

Meanwhile, the social media team worked to set up and brand the following digital channels:

  • Facebook Page
  • Twitter Profile
  • Instagram Accounts
  • Email Marketing Account

Digital Buzz Building:

StrataBlue took care of the social media before the restaurant was open for business, so this created a fantastic opportunity for us to tell the story right from the start about the development and vision. It also allowed us to involve the local community from the outset.

Our goals were to:

  • Announce the restaurant to the community and begin educating them about the concept, menu development, and plans for drink specialties and weekend entertainment.
  • Build a climate of anticipation around the launch.
  • Connect with the locals and foodies to create excitement and buzz within the foodie community.

Action Plan:

Even before the time came to open its doors with a promise of delicious food, StrataBlue ensured the restaurant was an aggressive user of social media channels to connect with potential patrons, and grow its digital footprint.

  • We began posting teasers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, cross-promoting content between the various platforms three months prior to a September opening date.
  • To increase the number of social media impressions, both Facebook and Twitter advertising were used to drive awareness, while connecting and engaging with more followers.
  • Appealing to a customer’s eyeballs is where Instagram came in, and we were able to show off what the restaurant would bring to the table (pun intended). We also used all social profiles to chronicle the evolution and construction of the restaurant, posting photos of both food and interior progress.
  • Socially shared and promoted content was also dedicated to staff Q&As, specialty cocktails that were planned, and entertainment acts that were being booked to perform.
  • While the website was being designed and built, we set up a landing page to announce that the new concept was coming. An embedded lead capture form was used to gather subscribers who wanted to be the first to know all the launch details, including opening week festivities.

Measurement & KPIs:

We defined KPIs to measure our performance, which we carefully measured over the course of the campaign:

  • KPI 1: Growth of the social following across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
  • KPI 2: Overall digital media impressions and reach
  • KPI 3: Email list subscriber growth
  • KPI 4: Increases in website traffic (the landing page went up two months prior to launch and
    the full website was launched several weeks before opening)

The restaurant’s grand opening was a massive success! During the first five months (three months prior to opening and two month after), the restaurant’s website received 49,000 visits by nearly 35,000 users, and the brand now has a database of 2,100 email address with which to send targeted e-newsletters.

Prior to opening night, Social Referral traffic and Direct traffic made up 19.14% and 25.33% of website sessions, respectively. After five months, the client was able to attribute nearly 10% of their website traffic to StrataBlue’s social media efforts. Direct website traffic, which demonstrates brand awareness and also includes some email and social media traffic, made up 21.43%.

The social media strategy achieved fantastic results within the first five months: 7,100+ Facebook Likes, nearly 1,250 Twitter Followers, and 960 Instagram fans actively engaging.

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Overall, the multi-channel campaign drove well over 2.5 million digital media impressions across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Two months post-opening, the StrataBlue team continues to use social and digital marketing to generate traffic to both the client’s website and brick-and-mortar location. Business is booming!

Would you like to see what we can do for your new business? Get in contact with us today!

Must-Have Instagram Tools for Marketing Your Brand

Instagram offers a plethora of features including photo filters and editing tools, but sometimes they just aren’t enough to run a creative and attention-grabbing Instagram marketing campaign. The Apple App Store and Android App Store are full of add-on tools to enhance your Instagram audience’s experience. Below I have complied a list of 5 must-have Instagram tools to consider using for your marketing campaigns.

AfterLight

If you ever get the feeling Instagram’s filters just aren’t working for your photo, then it’s time to download AfterLight. I use the AfterLight App on a daily basis, not only for my clients, but also for my own personal Instagram use. The app’s main features include: 59 filters, 66 textures (light leaks, instant film frame, and dusty overlay), cropping and editing tools, and frames. With AfterLight, you can explore 59+ other filters in addition to Instagram’s 20. The additional features are especially useful when posting food and landscape photos, where, for example, sometimes the original filters can give your food a less than appetizing appeal. With AfterLight, your food will look delicious on Instagram.

Instagram Afterlight App

Frame tool on Afterlight.

Instagram Afterlight App 2

Light leak tool on Afterlight.

Instagram Afterlight App 3

Instant film feature.

Instant film feature.

InstaSize

The InstaSize app is the solution for all those awkward auto-crop jobs that Instagram makes. In case you didn’t know, Instagram crops your photos into a 640 pixel by 640 pixel square photo. So what about your panoramic and rectangle photos? The InstaSizea app allows you to create Instagram images that fully display your content. You also have the option to choose the color of your background and add filters and text. Instasize is a must-have download for those looking to explore different depths of their photos while avoiding poor cropping.

InstaSize Instagram App 1

Add a border to your rectangle photo to avoid auto-cropping.

InstaSize 2

Panoramic photo with borders using InstaSize

 

Repost

Giving credit to an original author-photographer becomes easier with the Repost app. In just three simple steps, you are able to successfully re-post an Instagram to your followers. The Repost tool includes the original caption of the photo and also creates a banner with the original Instagrammer’s username and profile photo. Just follow these three easy steps to repost. There are a ton of repost apps out there, but I find this one by Red Cactus LLC to be easier to use compared to others.

Instagram Report App 1

Step 1: Select photo to Repost.

Instagram Report App 2

Step 2: Pick the position of your Repost watermark.

Instagram Report App 3

Step 3: Upload your Repost and then post to your page.

Pic Stitch

Pic Stitch was made for creating photos collages to be shared on Instagram. The free app offers up to 232 different collage frames in 15 different photo aspect ratios. You also have the ability to customize the collage borders with different colors and line sizes. Use Pic Stitch to create unique collages and to avoid the dreaded “multiple posts in one day” faux pas.

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Create a collage of photos using Pic Stitch.

Over

When using Instagram to market your business, it can be very powerful to enhance your photos with text captions. The Over App helps you add text and artwork to your Instagram photos. This app was designed with the creative Instagrammer in mind and offers 30+ fonts and artwork graphics to amp up the creative element of your posts.

Instagram Over App

The Over App allows you to add text and artwork to Instagram photos.

Using different apps to enhance your Instagram photos is absolutely key to executing a creative campaign for your business or brand. Like I have mentioned before, Instagram is all about visual appeal. These tools are essential to standing out among competition and getting your photos noticed.

What are some apps you use to edit and enrich your Instagram photos?